UPDATE MON APR 21 -- According to a St. Louis (MO) Post-Disatch article, the LCMS is continuing to insist that the cancellation of Issues Etc. was financial, although they have admitted that it was by far the most popular program on the LCMS owned radio station, KFUO-AM, the oldest continuously Christian radio station in America. More than 7200 supporters have signed the petition urging the station to reinstate the program, more than 200 showed up to a supporters prayer service in the area, & more than 75 picketed the LCMS headquarters, their signs asking for accountability from the Lutheran denomination. For more details, see Lutheran Radio Program's Demise Is a Symptom of Larger Ills.
Although the show was more popular than any other on the station, & although its hosts had raised more money for the station & the denomination than any others, & although its hosts had always affirmed traditional, biblical, Christian theology & Lutheran heritage, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) (LCMS) leadership has cancelled Issues Etc. & summarily terminated host Todd Wilken & his producer Jeff Schwarz, effective last Tuesday, March 18, in the middle of Holy Week.
While Wilken & Schwarz were given no notice or explanation, nor was anyone else connected with the program, the LCMS quickly posted a notice stating the show was cancelled for buiness & "programmic" reasons. When thousands of e-mails, letters, phone calls, & petition signatures put extreme pressure on the LCMS, a revised statment was posted that claimed low listnership & expensive costs as the reasons behind the abrupt cancellation & terminations. Although some figures were cited to suport the claims, full analysis of the situation belies the official revised statement
In a March 28, 2008 Wall Street Journalarticle, Millie Ziegler Hemingway noted what is more probably the actual reason for the program's demise: "the program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgial worship & the church's historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity & a market-driven approach to church growth. The divide is well known to all confessional Christian denominations struggling to retain their traditional identity." Issues Etc. was firmly in the traditional camp, although the hosts never directly criticized the LCMS, its leadership,or programs adopted by the leadership that were more pop-culture Christianity.
The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, LCMS current president, is of the pop-culture Christianity faction, being well known for his statement "This is not your grandfather's church."
A lay-driven movement in opposition to the cancelling of Issues Etc. & the termination of Wilken & Schwarz has generated a petition signed by over 5000 individuals, including pastors, Lutherans, & non-Lutherans from 49 states, 27 denominations, & 25 countries. Letters, e-mails, & phone calls have swamped the LCMS offices in St. Louis. Various friends & supporters have begun raising funds for the Wilken & Schwarz families, including Schwarz's home church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois.
Whether the conservatives will preserve the faith heritage of the LCMS as they did in the 1970s when a similar split loomed remains to be seen. That a huge wave of conservative Lutheran energy has arisen is beyond dispute.
Answers In Action director Gretchen Passantino, author of this article, was a frequent guest interviewed on Issues Etc. & has signed the petition & provided support for Wilken & Schwarz.,
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26